Cytomegalovirus infection accelerates epigenetic aging

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Abstract

Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation (DNAm) have a central role in the regulation of gene expression and thereby in cellular differentiation and tissue homeostasis. It has recently been shown that aging is associated with profound changes in DNAm. Several of these methylation changes take place in a clock-like fashion, i.e. correlating with the calendar age of an individual. Thus, the epigenetic clock based on these kind of DNAm changes could provide a new biomarker for human aging process, i.e. being able to separate the calendar and biological age. Information about the correlation of the time indicated by this clock to the various aspects of immunosenescence is still missing. As chronic cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is probably one of the major driving forces of immunosenescence, we now have analyzed the correlation of CMV seropositivity with the epigenetic age in the Vitality 90+ cohort 1920 (122 nonagenarians and 21 young controls, CMV seropositivity rates 95% and 57%, respectively). The data showed that CMV seropositivity was associated with a higher epigenetic age in both of these age groups (median 26.5 vs. 24.0 (p < 0.02, Mann–Whitney U-test) in the young controls and 76.0 vs. 70.0 (p < 0.01) in the nonagenarians). Thus, these data provide a new aspect to the CMV associated pathological processes.

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